Researcher Spotlight: Chiara Crestani

Published: 3 October 2018

Ellen Hughes puts Chiara Crestani under the Spotlight. Chiara is a second year PhD student studying the impact of mobile genetic elements (MGE) in the evolution and host adaptation of Streptococcus agalactiae...

Chiara Crestani portrait with horse

‌‌Can you tell us about your background?

I am a veterinarian by training. I graduated in 2015 from the University of Bologna with a thesis on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in dairy cow mastitis in the North East of Italy, where I am originally from.  During my undergraduate studies I developed a keen interest in Veterinary Public Health and in the One Health concept, which led me to work for two years at the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, a national laboratory that works on prevention and control of infectious diseases and runs research in various fields.

Why did you decide to do your PhD in IBAHCM/UofG?

I have always wanted to do a PhD to further pursue my studies and to fulfil my curiosity, and I looked extensively for the perfect project. When I found the project outline on the MVLS DTP website, as well as discovering the supervisory team, I didn't have any doubts. I was extremely happy when I first moved to Glasgow and found out that IBAHCM is such a friendly environment!

What can you tell us about your PhD?

I am an MVLS DTP student, which means that I started my PhD last October and I took 2 three-month rotations in different laboratories. I began my actual PhD project only in April this year.

What is the focus of your research?

My PhD project focuses on the impact of different types of mobile genetic elements (MGE) (such as bacteriophages, integrative conjugative elements and phage-inducible chromosomal islands) in the evolution and host adaptation of Streptococcus agalactiaeS. agalactiae has a wide spectrum of host species and is particularly known for causing mastitis in dairy cows and for being a leading cause of meningitis in newborn babies. Also, it has been recently identified as a causative agent of severe meningo-encephalitis in healthy adults, following the ingestion of contaminated fish. We believe that MGE play a major role in host adaptation and, possibly, virulence.

What do you find most interesting about your work?

The most interesting part is that this PhD journey has taken me completely out of my comfort zone! Moving from veterinary medicine to molecular microbiology and bioinformatic analysis did not come without challenges, but I find this transition extremely stimulating. I love the fact that I am developing new skills in different fields, which did not play a major role in my undergraduate course of study.

Are you where you thought you would be a year ago?

I am even in a better place than I thought I would be! Before moving I was not expecting to grow this much at such a high speed. I believe the trust my supervisor showed on my abilities from the first day gave me great confidence and motivation to never stop.

What part of your research so far have you enjoyed the most/felt most proud of?

I am extremely pleased about my improvements in the field of bioinformatics, considering I had zero experience exactly one year ago!

What are the most important lessons you have learnt from your first year?

Lesson #1: Work hard, but give yourself permission to unplug every now and then: everyone deserves holidays!

Lesson #2: Find a way to incorporate your passions in your routine: they are a great way to feed your mind and spirit.

Lesson #3: Organisation is key.

If you could tell your first-year-self-1 thing, what would it be?

"Everything will be ok!"

What advice would you give to anyone doing or considering a PhD?

Choose the best project you can find, one you believe in and that even when you're tired and lost, will be as motivating as the first day you started. But also: choose the best supervisor. For the next four years of your life, you want to work with somebody that gives you great vibes!

Tell us about your plans for the future

This year my aim is to better shape my PhD project, formulating some research questions, and to start my experiments in the laboratory. At the same time, I will be involved in a couple of mostly bioinformatic-based side projects on S. agalactiae.
Chaira Crestani with Lamb

First published: 3 October 2018